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11 August 2011
Investors are anticipating the unravelling of the 21 July 2011 “solution” and a breakdown of the interbank-market that would throw the economy into an “immediate recession” like the one experienced after the Lehman bankruptcy. This column argues that this will happen without quick and bold action...
What needs to be done
At this point the Eurozone needs a massive infusion of liquidity. Given that the cascade structure of the EFSF is part of the problem, the solution cannot be a massive increase in its size. However, the EFSF could simply be registered as a bank and could then have access to unlimited re-financing by the ECB, which is the only institution which can provide the required liquidity quickly and in convincing quantity.
This solution would have the advantage that it leaves the management of public debt problems in the hand of the finance ministries, but it provides them with the liquidity backstop that is needed when there is a generalised breakdown of confidence and liquidity. This is exactly when a lender of last resort is most needed.
It would of course be much better if the ECB did not have to ‘bail out’ the European rescue mechanism, but in this case one has to choose between two evils. Even a massive increase in the ECB’s balance sheet (which if the US experience is any guide will not lead to inflation) constitutes a lesser evil compared to a breakdown of the Eurozone financial system.
Editor’s Note: Daniel Gros expands on his thoughts in a companion audio piece, the Vox Talks The Eurozone crisis: only the unlimited firepower of the ECB will stop market panic
Daniel Gros is the Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. Originally from Germany, he attended university in Italy, where he obtained a Laurea in Economia e Commercio. He also studied in the United States, where he earned his M.A. and PhD (University of Chicago, 1984). He worked at the International Monetary Fund, in the European and Research Departments (1983-1986), then as an Economic Advisor to the Directorate General II of the European Commission (1988-1990). He has taught at the European College (Natolin) as well as at various universities across Europe, including the Catholic University of Leuven, the University of Frankfurt, the University of Basel, Bocconi University, the Kiel Institute of World Studies and the Central European University in Prague.